For the first time since 2018, ACU (6-3, 3-0) has acquired six wins with a chance at a seventh against 2021 Football Championship Subdivision Champions, Sam Houston State (5-2) at noon on Saturday in Huntsville.
Last weekend, ACU knocked off Tarleton 28-23 for their sixth win of the year with a chance at Western Athletic Conference title against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 19. The Wildcats clinched the victory with two touchdowns in the fourth and have now outscored opponents 90-34 in the fourth quarter this season.
“If you look at what we have done in the fourth quarter all season long, we’ve outscored our opponents,” head coach Keith Patterson said. “We just finished the game strong. We come into the game with a 60-minute mentality, and I think our team gets stronger and more confident as we go.”
This weekend, ACU will play SHSU for the last time before the school moves to the Conference-USA in the Football Bowl Subdivision this summer. Due to their move to the C-USA, the matchup this weekend does not count toward WAC standings. ACU currently sits in first place with SFA in second and Tarleton in third. In their history, the schools are tied 13-13-1 with ACU leading 8-7 in Huntsville. ACU’s last trip to Huntsville was in a 17-10 win in 2018.
“More than anything, we need to not start looking towards a championship or not trying to to make the playoffs, but staying focused on what has gotten us to this point,” Patterson said. “Things like being able to manage distractions and to continue to stay hungry to improve each week.”
On the year, Sam Houston has wins over FCS programs – Texas A&M Commerce, SFA, Eastern Kentucky, Utah Tech and Tarleton with losses to Texas A&M and Northern Arizona. The Bearkats are coming off a bye week heading into their matchup against the Wildcats.
Leading the way for the Bearkats statistically are junior quarterback Keegan Shoemaker – third in the WAC in passing yards with 133 per game, redshirt freshman running back Zach Hrbacek – second in the WAC in rushing yards with 66 per game and sophomore linebacker Kavian Gaither – third in the WAC in total tackles with 57.
“We want to continue to improve and show improvement against Sam Houston,” Patterson said. “We’re getting better every week. Now that we’re getting healthier, we’re able to gel as a team for the first time really all year long.”
Quarterback Maverick McIvor, sophomore from San Angelo, is coming off his best performance yet with 385 yards against Tarleton and a trio of touchdowns. His career day was the highest total passing yards by a Wildcats quarterback since Dallas Sealey in 2016.
“Every week, we try to take what our opponents give us, and this week, it allowed Maverick to throw the ball,” Patterson said. “Our passing was good, Maverick was really spreading the ball around. In this case, since they loaded the box, we threw it, and if they had lightened the box, then we would have taken what they gave us.”
Wide receivers Tristan Golightly, sophomore from Mesquite, and Kobe Clark, senior from Sweetwater, had monster performances as well with 117 and 115 yards each. Their performances were the first time since 2015 two ACU receivers racked up more than 100 yards each. Golightly and Clark are third and fourth in the WAC in receiving yards with 62 and 60 per game.
“This football team, it hasn’t mattered all year if we’re at Missouri, Stephen F. Austin, North Dakota,” Patterson said. “They’ve always responded when we get down.”
The Wildcats and Bearkats kick off at noon on Saturday at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium in Huntsville and will be broadcast live on ESPN+.